Volleyball: Panthers, Tigers finish strong at Cannon Falls
CANNON FALLS – Saturday’s Cannon Falls Invitational became a tumultuous day for Ellsworth. Luckily, the Panthers’ youngsters were able to step up to the challenge.
After going 1-1 in pool play with a 26-24, 25-22 win against Rochester Lourdes, Ellsworth reached the championship tournament bracket. Then after losses to St. Croix Lutheran and Bloomington Jefferson, the Panthers regrouped to beat LeRoy-Ostrander in the seventh-place match, 25-13, 25-15.
St. Croix Lutheran came out as the tournament champion as the fifth-ranked (2A) Crusaders defeated Farmington in the championship match in three sets.
Already playing without setter Megan Schroeder, Ellsworth took another hit during its first-round championship bracket match against St. Croix Lutheran as middle hitter Katelyn Kannel went down with a right knee injury.
“(The trainers) said it was a partially dislocated kneecap,” Panthers’ head coach Nicole Vande Berg said. “It’ll be potentially two or three weeks without her.”
While the circumstances forced Ellsworth to go young in its lineup, the newcomers more than held up their end.
“We had a couple of freshmen that we pulled up (Friday) night that stepped up. … They adapted well,” Vande Berg said. “(Senior) Chelsey Strom, our outside hitter, we gave her the ball a lot today and she did a good job.”
In her first year with the Panthers, Vande Berge said Saturday’s showing in the Cannon Falls Invite provided a promising glimpse into the team’s future.
“It really makes me think our program has potential,” Vande Berg said. “We got some young players who can do some things.”
In the consolation bracket, Lake City’s slide continued as the Tigers lost matches to St. Croix Lutheran, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in pool play, followed by a loss in straight sets to Rochester Lourdes.
The Lourdes loss proved to be the toughest after Lake City held a 22-15 second-set lead before the match slipped away, 25-16, 26-24.
Trying to end on a positive note in the 11th-place match, the Tigers snapped a 10-game losing streak by sweeping St. Croix Prep, 25-18, 25-15.
“We played so well against Cannon on Thursday and I was like, ‘Yeah, we got it.’ We just keep playing so up and down,” said Lake City head coach Kim Bobb. “They came back and we needed that. It would be nice if we could keep going up.”
Over four matches, Brianna Gates was the Tigers’ top hitter with 17 kills, and she also had a team-high 19 digs. Bailey Cronin finished with 34 set assists, and Emily Ziebell tallied seven kills, 10 digs and five ace serves. Despite being limited in the early part of the tournament due to illness, Madi Green finished with 16 kills and a team-high four blocks.
“Hopefully they keep growing,” Bobb said. “Tournament time is coming and hopefully, we can get things going and be a bracket buster.
“This is such a good group of girls and it says something about them the way they came back. We don’t have too many wins, but they keep trying every day. That says a lot about their characters, and they’re a good group to coach.”